“The Cultural Origins of the Printing Revolution” Lecture on Thursday

Note: This information was copied and pasted from http://bookhistory.ischool.utoronto.ca/TCB_program.html. Visit this link to learn about the Toronto Centre for the Book’s other lectures this year!

Thursday 3 October, 4:15 p.m.

Faculty of Information, 140 St. George Street, Bissell Building, Room 728

Adrian Johns (University of Chicago)

“The Cultural Origins of the Printing Revolution”

In Association with the iSchool

Historians of the book have reason to be happier than most humanists these days. We have become accustomed to noting that our field has flourished like few others in the last generation. It has staked a claim to importance in every branch of historical inquiry, and its practitioners create the kind of bold arguments and challenging claims that are the hallmark of a thriving intellectual enterprise. It is all the more striking, then, that when it comes to the field’s own signature problem – the advent and impact of the printed book in Renaissance Europe – boldness has arguably been less apparent than timidity. Excellent work by Andrew Pettegree and others notwithstanding, the fundamental concepts and convictions that reign today are still aligned with those established by Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin when they inaugurated the endeavour half a century ago. So what happens if we resolve to make good on the field’s promise by tackling the Gutenberg revolution itself in the spirit of our more radical historiographical ambitions? How many of our current approaches will pass that most stringent – yet at the same time most essential – test? And how far will basic understandings of the event itself be transformed? The aim of this lecture is to pose these questions. In answering them, it will suggest a novel account of what remains one of the most resonant episodes in Western history.

Adrian Johns was educated in Britain at the University of Cambridge, and he came to the United States in the late 1990s. He taught at the University of California, San Diego and the California Institute of Technology before joining the University of Chicago, where he is currently Allan Grant Maclear Professor in the Department of History and the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. A specialist in the history of the book and the history of science, he has taught and published widely on both subjects. He is the author of The Nature of the Book (1998), Piracy (2009), and Death of a Pirate (2010). A recent Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently working on a history of the global industry that has arisen to police information.

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